Entering the 2008 season, the Cincinnati Bengals were expected to rebound from a subpar year and make a strong playoff push thanks to a solid roster.
The previous year had been a surprising disappointment, which saw Cincinnati finish 7-9, but 2008 looked to be the year that the team would turn it around. The roster was too good to be that bad, and nobody expected that the bright future at the end of the tunnel was the white glare of a CSX diesel-electric locomotive charging at them.
On paper, the 2008 team had a good offense led by Carson Palmer at quarterback and a pair of returning Pro Bowl wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. They also drafted a pair of young, just-drafted, wide receivers in Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson to solidify the receiver corps, and they also brought in Ben Utecht to finally add a pass-catching tight end which the team had sought for years. The offense was trending in the right direction with good pieces at the skill positions.
The defense also looked to be making positive strides in 2008. In the previous season, they struggled rushing the quarterback, with Robert Geathers leading the team despite a mere 3.5 sacks. But entering 2008 they had added Antwan Odom via free agency to bolster the pass rush, fresh off his career year of 8.0 sacks. The defense was also going to be stronger at cornerback with second-year corner Leon Hall ready to start a full season next to Jonathan Joseph, and linebacker looked to be a strength by drafting the young, dynamic Keith Rivers and placing him next to a solid Dhani Jones.
Week one began with a road trip to face the Ravens, but unfortunately, the offense seemed to have missed the flight to Baltimore. The Bengals could only muster 154 total yards of offense and failed to score an offensive touchdown, losing 17-10, which was actually 17-3 before a very late defensive score by Jonathan Joseph on a fumble recovery. Week two did not return any better results for the Bengals, in a home game against the Titans. For the second consecutive week, the offense failed to execute, as the team lost 24-7.
The primary culprit in the failures of 2008 was the quarterback position. Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer seemingly forgot how to throw the football, and in the Bengals first two games, he completed only 49 percent of his passes with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. During that span, he compiled a miserable quarterback rating of 37.1 while only averaging 114 yards per game. Palmer got slightly better in the next two weeks, boosting his quarterback rating to 69.0 before his season was shortened by an elbow injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped in where Palmer left off and started the final 12 games of the season with a 70.0 rating.
Ultimately the Bengals lost eight straight games, before squeaking past a bad Jaguars team 21-19. It was a game they led 21-3 in the fourth quarter before making a valiant effort to give the victory away, but ultimately the Jaguars were not able to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them. That victory would be their only one in the first 14 weeks of the NFL season, as they floundered their way to a 1-11-1 record. With nothing left to play for but draft positioning, the team won a trio of meaningless games to drop in the draft standings from #2 to #6, while finishing the season 4-11-1.
Fast forward a decade, and the start to the 2017 season seems eerily familiar. The 2017 squad is also coming off an unexpected down season, with expectations that they would rebound nicely. The 2017 roster is also one that has generally been improved across the board from the previous season, including
- Joe Mixon coming in to replace a struggling Jeremy Hill (Benson replacing Rudi Johnson)
- Drafting wide receiver John Ross as depth behind a great A.J. Green (drafting Caldwell and Simpson behind a great Chad Johnson)
- Adding pass rushers Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Chris Smith (signing Antwan Odom)
- Eifert returning from injury to provide a pass-catching tight end (signing Ben Utech to do the same thing)
Both teams also returned a good, veteran quarterback. But like in 2008, the 2017 team has seen their quarterback suddenly struggle with passing the football due to bad reads and bad throws. Both teams saw that awful quarterback play sink the starts to their seasons with the abysmal offensive showing in their first two games.
We know that the horrendous start for the 2008 team was an omen of things to come, as the team only brought home a single victory in their first thirteen games. But the story of the 2017 team is still unwritten – will it follow the course of its predecessor, or will they find a way to turn things around?
Record prediction for 2017 Bengals
This poll is closed
8+ wins (I still believe in this team and its coaches)
5~8 wins (better than 2008, but only barely)
4 wins (just like 2008)
Less than 4 wins (yes, I’m that pessimistic about this offense)